CODES OF CONDUCT by Karla F.C. Holloway


Race, Ethics, and the Color of Our Character
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 An academic dares to veer from the formality of scholarly prose and talk frankly as a black woman about her experiences in the community, the university, and this nation. Holloway (English and African American Literature/Duke Univ.; Moorings and Metaphors, not reviewed) divides her book into three chapters: ``The Body Politic,'' ``Language, Thought, and Culture,'' and ``The Moral Lives of Children.'' The first discusses what black women have represented in our culture and how the duality of their race and gender has made them examples as well as arbiters of change. Holloway begins, as do many who write about gender today, with Anita Hill. But she shows the breadth and originality of her ideas by comparing Hill's Senate testimony with the trial almost 200 years before of a colonial slave turned poet, Phillis Wheatley. Holloway reminds us that in each instance what was on trial was the woman's low status in society and the lack of credibility given her words, especially when she is being questioned by a white man. Did Wheatley write the verse that stirred the colonies with its sophistication and literary verve? Did Anita Hill tell the truth? For that matter, did Tawana Brawley, or Zora Neale Hurston in her trial on morals charges in the late 1940s? And when Ted Danson put on blackface at the Friars Club and told a sexually explicit, racially biased joke about his lover, Whoopi Goldberg, was she ``a victim of Danson, or a victim of herself''? Again and again, Holloway makes connections among popular culture, history, and literature that create a distinctive, exciting discourse. From her reading of Maya Angelou's inaugural speech through her account of her son's struggles growing up as a young black man, Holloway never hides behind the visage of ``reason'' and third-person voice. Rigorous in its intellectual ponderings, stirring in its personal revelations.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-8135-2155-6
Page count: 210pp
Publisher: Rutgers Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1995